Revenge! That’s what Congress’ debutant Barindermeet Singh Pahra is craving for.
Linked to the outcome of February 4 assembly election is the prestige and political clout of the Pahra clan eclipsed by the rise of Gurbachan Singh Babbehali — the two-term Akali Dal legislator who is widely seen as ‘Bahubali’ of Gurdaspur.
The entry of Pahra, 35, the grandson of the dyed-in-the-wool Akali late Kartar Singh Pahra, who was Gurdaspur MLA (1997-2002), has turned the electoral contest of Gurdaspur segment into one of the most keenly-watched battles.
Thus, the stage is set for a major showdown to salvage the family pride.
- Name: Barindermeet Singh Pahara,
- Age: 35
- Party: Congress
- Constituency: Gurdaspur
- Poll quotient: Mainly banking on the goodwill of his late grandfather who represented Gurdaspur in 1997.
- Role Model: Grandfather late Kartar Singh Pahara.
- Education: Computer engineer
- By the way: Doesn’t part with his lucky charm -- yellow wrist band -- he had brought from Baglamukhi temple in Kangra of Himachal Pradesh.
The January 8, 1981 born, computer engineer, who went to a local school in Gurdaspur, reminds the voters how in 1997 assembly poll at the age of 16 he was unconsciously introduced to electoral politics by his grandfather. “Then I had travelled all the villages with my grandfather. Since then I am in politics and maintaining a close contact with all of you,” he tells the villagers of Bhopar Saidan as an elderly Banta Singh, 65, springs up and shouts, asking: “Can you recognise me? You had visited my house along with Pahra sahib.”
At this, the youth resorts to sloganeering and the twilight reverberates with impromptu applause of the villagers, giving the Congress nominee much needed confidence and morale booster dose.
Khatra sannu Pakistan to nahin, balki ehna masandaa ton hai, jo das saal ton raaj kar rahe hann
That’s the ‘Pahra legacy’ he has been banking on, the legacy which was relegated to the political margins in Gurdaspur by Babbehali’s rise. His father Gurmeet Singh Pahra was set to get Akali Dal ticket in 2007. But, Babbehali “managed” and dashed their hopes.
Since then, he says, the Pahra clan was in political wilderness.
“In 2009 we left the Akali Dal and joined the Congress after police booked our family in different frivolous cases at Babbehali’s behest,” the Congress nominee says. “Babbehali,” he says, “has harassed all his political rivals and even innocent villagers by lodging cases. Still he couldn’t harm us.”
Suddenly, the chants of “badla” from the Bhopar Saidan crowd start soaring. Pahra, an apt orator promises the villages: “I will lodge one case against Babbehali which will put him…”
Sensing the mood of his supporters, he goes on: “Mein Punjab di gal nahin karni hunn, sadde ghar vich Babbehali ne aag laa ditti hai, kabje de rajneeti kiti Babbehali ne, sannu apne ghar di gal karni hai. Parche di rajneeti nu khatam karna hai.” Banking on the popularity of his grandfather, Pahra reminds voters that his family has been with them for the past 20 years in both ‘joy and grief.’
In the face of an unexpectedly emerging challenge Babbehali, 63, is too not taking any chances and is playing the card of “development”. The MLA hasG his pockets of influence and is credited for good work also. “We will vote as per the advice of the sarpanch who started my old age pension and provided basic facilities in our village,” says an elderly woman of Kamalpur Afgana village, while her companions with wrinkled faces nod.
In 2012, Babbehali was polled 59,905 votes and defeated his Congress rival Raman Bahl by 21,570 votes. Now, all the candidates in the fray here seeking to dislodge him have Akali background. Sucha Singh Chhotepur, 68, the supremo of Aapna Punjab Party (APP) was Akali Dal legislator in 1985, while AAP’s Amarjit Singh Chahal, 62, was once an active worker of the Akalis.
On the other hand, Pahra who got the Congress ticket after spending “40 days in Delhi” is trying to captivate voters by a sustained hammering of Babbehali.
What, however, should be a cause of anxiety to other contenders is the rousing reception the villagers—from children to women and elderly people— have been according to Pahra during his whirlwind tours of the hinterland.
The Congress nominee is banking on his clean and down-to-earth image and is urging voters for a chance to represent the seat. “Akalis adopted divide and rule policy. Let us unite ourselves and take a vow to finish our enemy,” he says as crowd applauds.
But it will take more than rhetoric for Pahra to convince the voters to help him take revenge.
FRESH FACES IN THE FRAY: 11TH OF 13 PART SERIES
NEXT: HARINDER PAL SINGH CHANDUMAJRA
Barindermeet Singh Pahra, 35, Congress (Gurdaspur)
Poll quotient: Riding on anti-Akali legislator mood, goodwill of his late grandfather and sharp oratory
Education: Computer engineer
By the way: Wears a yellow wrist band brought from Baglamukhi temple in Kangra of Himachal Pradesh
Quote: Khatra sannu Pakistan to nahin, balki ehna masandaa ton hai, jo das saal ton raaj kar rahe hann
Role Model: Grandfather late Kartar Singh Pahra